Daryl Jaschen, director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency, opened the Government House weekly press briefing with a warning about an extraordinarily high-temperature forecast — between 102-107 degrees.
“The National Weather Service, I talked to about 30 minutes ago, has reported that St. Croix has already reached the heat index of 105 degrees today, as of Monday, the fifth of June. If you have been outside you can confirm what I’m telling you,” said Jaschen.
In addition to hot weather, Sahara dust will affect the territory through the weekend. Those with respiratory illness should watch for symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. It is important to hydrate, stay cool with light clothing and stay inside, he said. People with symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, high body temperature and confusion should seek medical attention immediately.
The director also presented a thorough briefing on hurricane preparation and readiness for residents by government agencies.
June 1 marked the beginning of hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30. NOAA’s forecast for this year is “near normal,” with 12-17 tropical storms, five to nine hurricanes and between one and four major hurricanes, categorized as winds of 110 miles per hour or greater.
The director said a storm watch will be issued 48 hours before tropical storm force winds (39 miles per hour) are expected. A storm warning will be issued 36 hours before the onset is expected. A hurricane watch means being ready and a warning means heading to safety immediately.
Just as the government shelters are ready, Jaschen said residents should prepare family and individual plans and assess the safety of their homes. If necessary, learn shelter locations, or plan to shelter with friends or with a faith-based shelter.
Government shelters will be opened at the same time on all three islands by the governor, Jaschen said. Special needs and medical conditions will be accommodated and all shelters will have a nurse’s station. People will complete a form about COVID-19 symptoms before they enter a shelter but will not be tested.
Service animals will be welcome at all shelters and some approved pets, accompanied by kennels or cages, food, medicine, leashes, medication and litter boxes for cats. Pet owners will be responsible for cleaning up after their animals.
Anyone interested in using a shelter should call the Human Services Department between June 12-16 at 340-715-6935 to complete a survey of interest. The survey can also be completed at VITEMA.gov.
St. Thomas shelters will open at:
Lockhart School (for 248 people and some pets)
Ivanna Eudora Kean High School gym (460 people)
Ivanna Eudora Kean Cafeteria (161 people)
St. Croix shelters will open at:
St. Croix Educational Complex (739 people and pets)
D.C. Canegata Community Center (161 people)
St. John shelter will open at:
Adrian Senior Center (15 people)
Medical special needs shelters will be located at Schneider Regional Medical Center and at St. Croix Educational Complex and with VITRAN, transportation can be arranged by calling 340-773-1663 or 340-774-5678. Anyone needing the service must be accompanied by an adult.
Water Island residents will use one of the St.Thomas shelters.
Boaters should not ride out storms but secure their vessel and find shelter on land, Jaschen said.
“Prepare, prepare, prepare. When the storm is on its way is not the time to try to scramble to get your affairs in order or to get supplies,” said Richard Motta, Government House communications director.
Motta also spoke about seniors who are trying to receive the $500 Social Security stipend. Now there is a “service now” procedure at the Office of Management and Budget website to use to register eligibility documents for review. For assistance, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.